there is something so empowering about a female traveling solo in a foreign country. you realize how much you enjoy your own company & crack yourself up. you discover more of your ability to adapt when things don’t go your way. you understand you can be stretched a lil farther than you originally thought. you become more aware of areas you can improve to become more flexible with plans. you learn the health of being alone & comfortable by yourself. you reawaken confidence in yourself, your decision-making, your intuition. you even grow a teenie bit more comfortable with stares from people who aren’t used to a black woman with turquoise braids walking into a room. ;)
colorado is amazing, but traveling always helps to get me outta my comfort bubble a bit & reminds me how big the world is. there’s so much to see! i had such an amazing time in europe. i’d been before, so this trip was a visit back to some cities as well as getting to explore some new. i was gonna be in brussels again (i’ve been once before) for work for about 2 weeks, & knew that this time around i wanted to visit other surrounding cities. since i wasn’t sure what my work schedule would be like until i got to brussels, i waited to plan my travel to other cities/buy my train tickets/etc until i was there. this might make my more typeA people nervous ;) … but travel around europe is so easy once you’re there, so i figured i’d be fine playing it by ear & figuring all that out once i got there. i knew i could drive my rental vehicle around some places & that i’d be able to buy train tickets online for the rest while ubering around. i was even open to getting an airbnb last-minute. i wasn’t worried! all part of the adventure.
this blog post will be divided into 5 parts in the order of the cities in which i spent time during this trip: 1.) brussels, 2.) paris, 3.) london, 4.) amsterdam, & 5.) bruges.
first was exploring brussels. with red rocks church having a campus there, this has become a city near & dear to my heart. there were still some sights i hadn’t got the chance to see my past visit that i was determined to see this time around. the cinquantenaire was high on my list, so i started with sunrise there.
after sunrise i drove toward grand place area, parked my vehicle, got some breakfast, then spent a whole day walking around brussels. i had no plans the day after I landed (which was a saturday), so i spent as much time as i wanted taking in sights: church of our lady of the chapel (aka notre dame de la chapelle), which is a beautiful gothic-romanesque church; the cathedral of st michael & st gudula; & galerie de la reine, a glazed ensemble of shopping arcades. then i’d drive to another spot, park, & walk around to see sights like the place royale, or koningsplein, a historical neoclassical square near the center of the city; palace of the nations; royal palace of brussels; brussels park; & museum of modern art.
walking around brussels was really freeing, i think because it was my first city of this european solo adventure on which i was embarking. each discovery of a gorgeous structure or historical building held excitement & wonder.
a few days later i was driving to paris! it’s crazy to me that i was born in europe, have been to europe at least 3 times after that, & hadn’t been to the city of love yet. i was excitedly determined to make it to paris this trip.
jet lag was R E A L for me the whole time i was in europe, so i had no trouble leaving in time to drive to the eiffel tower for sunrise, even though it was pretty cloudy that day. it was just as stunning as i’d imagined every time i saw photos of this iconic wrought iron lattice tower. kinda hard to stop looking at it.
definitely didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this city. it actually was perfect that it was cloudy ~ somehow it matched the feel of the city that day for me. i fosho need to return when i have more than just 1 day to spend here. because i knew i wanted to get to a few other cities during my days off work this trip, i limited myself to 1 day in each city. the way i see it, 1 day might not be ‘enough;’ but it’s a good amount anywhere if you start early, know where you wanna go, & in advance plan out somewhat of a route to hit those spots. obviously leave room for unexpected places you stumble upon that you wanna explore. i definitely found some places in each city that i hadn’t researched beforehand to visit but took time to check out anyway.
picturesque views of the tower were abundant. areas like the trocadéro gardens, the palais de chaillot, & square nadar felt so… paris-y. with it being an early monday morning, the city felt chill & yet vibrant. the breezy weather matched the vibe of the day, but parking in paris proved to be less than stellar. =/ i managed to find spots here & there not too far from where i wanted to walk around, but even then i felt a sense of urgency to get back my vehicle before it was towed because what if i missed a sign in french about not parking there. alas, it worked out fine… but next time i’m in paris, i’ll forgo driving.
i enjoyed some brunch in the 17th arrondissement neighborhood les batignolles, which turned out o be a great area for some people-watching & observing some parisian culture. i was one of the only people in the restaurant, which helped make my meal a peaceful break of recuperating.
basilique du sacre-coeur de montmartre was up next, along with one of the cutest-building-award leaders of my trip, la maison rose & then driving around the arc de triomphe. the arc de triumph reminded me of brussels’ cinquantenaire! the 2 are pretty different — for one thing, the cinquantenaire has a triple arch & the arc de triumph is a single-arched monument… but for some reason, the structure of each remind me of the other.
2 days later, i was taking a train to my city of birth, london! my family moved from london to the states when i was 2 years old, & i’ve never been back to visit until now. such a special trip... so thankful i got the chance to spend a day here. i’m excited to return with my mummy one day & visit places with her, like the hospital my brothers & i were born or the neighborhood my family lived back then. I'm also hoping to return one day to renew my british passport (dual citizenship, babeh!) when i have more time to spend there. either way, coming back a 2nd time is a MUST.
this was quite possibly the top city for me, because of aaaaall the nostalgia feels. i didn’t wanna leave. even though i don’t remember it, being that i was a wee toddler when i was last there, it still had a familiar & special aura about it. i felt a sense of ‘home,’ like a familiar friend. might not make total sense, but it was amazing. from the moment i boarded my train, to every iconic red double-decker bus i hopped on & off making my way around the city, to spending hours just sitting in a field across from westminster abbey next to a small daisy flower… it seemed like the city embraced me back. noticing that little daisy in the grass next to me was a sweet-little-nothing the Lord didn’t have to throw in my already wonderful experience in london. it was just so so special walking these streets & taking in the endless sights.
took red double-decker buses to the palace of westminster, elizabeth tower (aka big ben, which was undergoing “essential conservation work” according to the sign explaining why big ben looked a lil different than i’d expected), & the london eye. i walked some beautiful london neighborhoods like colonnade walk, kensington, campden hill square, & notting hill. i listened to a bagpipe performer on the street, thinking of ross from friends THE WHOLE TIME, & visited florally-adorned cozy bakeries.
i got an airbnb that night & ended up having to walk for a long time in the dark because the bus i was scheduled to take to my airbnb never showed up… & it was the last bus. it just added to the adventure! eventually i got to my airbnb, which was adorable & a fitting pretty bow tied around an amazing & eventful day of exploring my birth city.
the next morning, i hopped on a train to amsterdam. amsterdam was just as charming as i thought it would be. a friend told me amsterdam would be active yet cool & laid back, & i completely agree. breezy weather made it comfortable to walk the streets for hours, enjoy the canals lined by those whimsical narrow buildings, & make a couple new friends.
it was a really accomplished feeling, finally making it to amsterdam. i loved how much of a walking city it is, while remaining a clean city. it’s the perfect city to walk around, which made getting around so easy. gotta love free exploring!
this is one of the cities i felt i was able to see most everything i had in mind to see. did a bit of shopping here, enjoying all the flower shops had to offer, & frequently noticed the smell of weed. haha.
getting back to where i was staying in brussels from amsterdam was a little crazy, after arguing with my uber driver, who was SURE he had dropped me off at the correct train station (but hadn’t), i had to book another uber driver to take me to my correct station & then run to catch my train. thankfully i made it right before the train took off. all about the adventure, eh?
the next city i planned to see was bruges.i drove my rental vehicle & got there early enough to see a beautiful sunrise light up the sky. i was immediately reminded of a fairytale setting in medieval times. beautiful castles that would be fitting for a present-day ‘tangled’ remake weren’t difficult to find. the cobblestone streets only added to the city’s delightful ambience.
i was pretty exhausted & didn’t spend too long here, but i absolutely loved bruges. one of the most endearing cities of my trip.
so there ya have it. a bit of europe solo, & already i’m excited to return to brussels in early 2019! that’s europe for ya : leaves you coming back for more. =)